Everytime the Prancing Horse puts out a V12, it revolutionizes the motor world. The 375 America, the 250, “Daytona” 365 GTB4, to the last GTO reincarnation of the 599, their mission has been to set a new standard on how a twelve-cylinder engine should be. Every one of them represents the pinnacle of automobile development in their respective time, and the latest top of the range F12 Berlinetta is no exception. With Ferrari at the spearhead of this trend, what do we expect from the new V12 powerhouse?
It was a Monday afternoon when we took the F12 onto the winding road in the southern end of Hong Kong island. At the controls – the fastest road going Ferrari by far, unmistakably made with the successful recipe that Enzo Ferrari would have favored: 12 cylinder engine, front-midship layout and styled by Pinnifarina with a shorter wheelbase. In every view, the F12 is a sensational piece of engineering. The new 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V12 now generates an exhilarating 730hp, beating both the previous generation of the 6.0 V12 on the 599 GTB by 110hp and even the Aventador in the power race, is also considerably lighter and smaller than its predecessor, achieving aggressive acceleration as a result of an enhanced power-to-weight ratio.
Unlike the old days where sports cars were only for the weekends, modern twelve-cylinder Ferraris have followed a more sensible evolution and made the necessary compromises. The dawn of the electronic era has turned what used to be the ultimate driving machines into saloon-like, comfortable daily drivers. Surely the F12 is now on a new mission. With its imposing front grille, guide vanes on the sides acting as brake coolers and reducing drag, and the air flow path along the purposeful Italian body sculpture, every single new aerodynamic detail Ferrari has put onto the car has worked together to help boost up to 76% more downforce… and itʼs even got a hatchback. Along with its usability, the F12 is the most aerodynamically efficient Ferrari has ever rolled out from the Maranello factory, its very own ultimate interpretation of a sport/GT car of our age, almost defining itself in a brand new category.
What Ferrari has created is a fierce but tamed beast with all the advanced electronic aids you will ever need in place to keep the car in control on all terrains. The result is a less grueling feel through the steering wheel, and while in low speed, the F12 reminds us a lot of the old 575; a proper sized grand tourer. Iʼve never been too keen on the computerized Ferraris of the recent times since the 458 Italia came along. No doubt, the 458 is an exhilarating car to drive, but the cruel reality of today has stripped down the raw enjoyment of driving with the constant increasing concerns of safety, justifying the over intervention of electronic systems, and stringent emission regulations prohibiting the exciting soundtrack before reaching 3,000rpm with a set of electronically controlled valves. But is this something we really want from Maranello?
Getting out from the school zone area we finally put the F12 to the test, activating race mode and applying a little more enthusiasm on the throttle. The F12 immediately transforms into a wild animal and everything in the windscreen disappears into a blur, with corners arriving quick and fast in a blink of an eye. The evolved 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox offers a lightning fast and smooth gear shifting; but almost too smooth that you soon forget the brutal snaps to your neck and the excitement from changing gears that a sports car should have. I immediately miss the ferocious punch last found on the 599 GTOʼs single-clutch F1 transmission. Thereʼs never been a doubt on how well a Ferrari V12 performs, but what is truly amazing about the F12 is how civilized and stable the car can be on such poor condition mountain roads, with its superb electromagnetic suspension offering an all-rounded performance that allows you to take on any corner with sheer confidence. As each corner passes by in successive blurs, this confidence only increases. The steering is much lighter, a sharp improvement from its 599 GTB predecessor, and with a quicker steering ratio of 2 turns lock to lock, the car feels more vivid through the bends with minimum input from your arms, but with the distinct lack of feedback if compared to the heavier, communicative steering of the GTO variant.
As we wind back and pull into the showroom to collect our thoughts, it’s clear that the F12 Berlinetta is a true successor to Ferrari’s GT front engined V12 legacy. Fierce yet tame, with its OTT power output and enhanced sensibility it straddles both worlds by paying homage to Ferrari’s exciting V12 past, yet with the other foot firmly in the world of the modern day pro-commuter enthusiast. It meets every expectation you would have from a Ferrari V12, but also leaves you wondering how far you can push it. It plays the ultimate balancing act and is without a doubt, in our opinion, their friendliest, yet most aggressive V12 grand tourer to date.